By Chris Liddell
On 13th October 2010 a series of four articles entitled 'Going Solo'(read it here)appeared on FlightSim.Com written by yours truly - how time flies! Idoubt you will have read them unless you are a true veteran! Butfeel free to do so, as it gives some background to my currentseries. By way of introduction, my name is Chris Liddell, and I am akeen flight simmer and real world private pilot living in Scotland UK.Going back to my childhood, I always had the ambition to be a pilot,and the previous articles described the process of discovering theworld of flight simulation, which then led to my achieving thatdream.
The final part of the 'going solo' series ended with me passing myPPL skills test, and gaining my licence.
This article will describe some of the things I have been up tosince then, by way of a warm up for the next event in my aviationadventure!
Like many pilots, upon gaining my licence, I was keen to take myfriends and family flying. All my training up to this point however,had been on two seat aircraft - the Diamond Katana, and the Cessna152. The club I rented from also had Cessna 172s - so I got checkedout on this new type by my instructor, and then experienced thepleasure of taking passengers into the air! To be honest, I had, likemany simmers, probably seen the C172 as a bit of a 'toy' aircraft,and was more interested (in the virtual world) in flying the big jets,and aerobatic types, but as I was to learn, the humble 172 can needcareful handling, particularly in the landing phase.
Checked out on the C172
Don't believe me? Well, I was amused to read in a flying magazinean article written by an ex RAF fast jet pilot and combat veteran, whodescribed the difficulties and embarrassment he had when trying toland a 172 on a short grass strip, when he took his family flying oneday! In fairness, he had little time logged in the 172, and like allaircraft, it has its own little ways and gotchas which you need tobecome familiar with - hence the need for 'differences training' whenconverting to another type - regardless of your experience.
I flew some great flights with various passengers, and in theprocess notched up more hours and experience. I had become goodfriends with a fellow PPL student during my training, and we flewoften together - which of course halves the cost! My friend (let'scall him Tom - to protect the innocent!) had a very different agendato me though. He was a young guy, and his plan was to become acommercial pilot. I followed his progress through the various ratings,and was really impressed to see first hand how much his flyingimproved, and became much more professional.
Flying with him was great for me, and of course I learned a wholelot myself as a result of seeing how he flew. He worked his waythrough his night rating, multi engine rating, instrument rating,commercial pilot rating, and multi crew rating over a period of time,all the while working various jobs to cover the training costs. I wentalong with him on his long cross country navigation flight which was apre-requisite for starting his commercial course. I am glad to reportthat he has now been flying as a first officer for three years with acertain Scottish Regional Airline!
The good thing about flying with another pilot (apart from costsharing) is having another person to verify decisions, keep a lookout, help with flying duties like ATC, changing squawk codes, and ofcourse being a human auto pilot! So far in my real life flying'career' I have never flown an aircraft with an auto pilot!
Tom also worked at the flying club to make some extra money, andthere was a good club atmosphere, where people dropped by for a coffeeand to chat about our favorite subject - aviation!
Beautiful scenery enroute to Oban at 6000 feet
I did some great flights to places like Oban, and the WesternIsles, as well as getting some grass strip experience. The companywhich owned the flying club had a lovely Piper Arrow, and I decided todo my complex endorsement. This was great fun, and introduced me toretractable gear (which as a flight simmer has to be the coolest thingever!), constant speed prop, manifold pressure, more complex fuelsystem, etc., which added a new dimension to my flying. There is noformal test for the complex endorsement, just 'training as required'and I did my training in about three hours of instruction.
Grass strip flying with the C152
My plan was to fly the Arrow for a bit, doing some longer trips.It was more expensive to hire but it made trips shorter due to itshigher cruise speed - a real touring aircraft.
Tragedy struck though, as the Arrow was involved in a fatalaccident over water off the west coast of Scotland. I didn'tpersonally know the pilot involved, but it really hit close to homethe potential dangers of flying. Without going into any morespecifics, the accident seems to have been the result of an encounterwith bad weather, and losing control as a result of spacialdisorientation (the pilot did not hold an instrument rating).
Instrument flying had always fascinated me, and seemed to be the'holy grail' of pilot skills.
You get to do all the things forbidden to VFR pilots, such asflying through and above clouds, and instrument approaches -everything I do on flight sim!
Tom my friend has now done his instrument rating, and most pilotsagree that it is one of the toughest ratings to achieve. Tom did thecourse intensively in around three months, passing his test with oneof the toughest local examiners, and told me that the first thing hedid after getting his IR, was jump into a Cessna 152 and go for a niceVFR sight seeing flight as an antidote to all the grind of theinstrument course!
Complex training in the Piper Arrow
Not long after transitioning to the 172, I booked a session with aninstructor, as I was still unhappy with the consistency of mylandings. I have a great session, and the instructor (who I had nevermet before) is really great. He is called Jim, and little did I knowthat he would be the inspiration for the next part of my story!
The more I thought about safety in flying, the more I came to theconclusion that it is vital to have the skills necessary to deal withunexpected problems. One of the biggest killers of GA pilots is flyinginto bad weather and losing control of the aircraft or flying blindinto high ground. During PPL training students get very rudimentaryinstruction in how to do a 180 degree turn on instruments in order toget out of an unexpected encounter with cloud. Weather is nevertotally predictable, and even the most prepared pilots can findthemselves in deteriorating conditions if the weather turns bad. Likemost flight simmers, I have tried a fair bit of instrument flying, andhave enjoyed doing ILS approaches in a variety of aircraft (alwayseasy on autopilot!), as well as VOR work, to say nothing of climbingabove clouds, and flying in all sort of murky conditions to see whathappens!
As a real world non instrument rated PPL I am strictly forbidden toenter cloud, and the minima for visual flying (VFR) are laid out inthe regulations. Many of us will have watched the
Becoming more curious about instrument flying, I ask Jim theinstructor to give me an introductory experience of basic instrumentflying, and having covered up my view of the outside world, he gets meto fly various headings and altitudes for about an hour, beforeallowing me to go visual for the landing. I find this to be afascinating experience, but continue with my normal visual flyinghobby for a good while after this. The idea of learning to fly oninstruments persists though, and after a good bit of consideration, Idecide to take my flying to the next level, and train for aninstrument qualification! The next series of articles will describemy experiences as I begin my instrument training - watch thisspace!
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